Malted Barley Appreciation Society

Malted Barley Appreciation Society Newsletter

Vol. 4,  No. 3, March 1997


The April Meeting

by Lucy Zachman

The Monster Mash

The April meeting offered a look at what it really takes to open a micro-brewery. Our guest, Charlie Ewen, the owner and head brewer at the Saw Mill River Brewery, told us it takes quite a bit of money and hard work.

At one time, Charlie was one of those type "A" personalities who work on Wall Street. But after years of stress, he decided to start a family business with his wife. Charlie was, of course, and avid homebrewer and had thrown many backyard parties where friends delighted in is craft. His father and grandfather were both brewers as well. So for the sum of $20,000, Charlie convinced his wife that a micro-brewery was to be their next adventure. Now, about a year later, they've spent at least $80,000 -- $20,000 on stainless steel equipment alone.

Saw Mill River is a 3 barrel brewery, but, Charlie noted, he regularly brews 2-2 barrels due to the size of his mash tun. He converted wine fermenters into beer fermenters. For now, you can only get Saw Mill River in kegs, primarily in bars or restaurants, but they are considering bottling in the future. (Bottling machines cost a lot of money!) They offer three varieties -- pale ale, porter and stout.

Charlie brought plenty of the pale ale and porter for us to sample.   At first, Charlie said, he attempted to make an ale similar to a Double Diamond. But, apparently, it was a hard sell. People in Westchester County just weren't going for it. (Except Eric who first tried Saw Mill River's pale ale at the Lazy Boy Saloon in White Plains early last year and really liked it.)

Charlie made a few adjustments to the recipe and sales began to improve. "The more I make it taste like Budweiser, the more I sell," Charlie said to our appalled group. Blasphemy! and yet a fact of life for someone who makes a living selling a product. You've got to give people what they want.  The pale ale, however, and much to our relief, offered little resemblance to Bud. In fact, some of us noted that it had an interesting similarity to an early version of a Neptune ale, with an almost citrusy flavor.

Charlie said he uses mostly Marris Otter malt. East Kent Goldings is added in the sparge water and 1% DeWulf Golden Aromatic is added later. But the primary hop used by this brewery is Magnum because of it's high (15) alpha acid. The higher the alpha acid the less hops you use and the more cost-effective your beer. Charlie also noted that, in an effort to resemble Bud, some corn was thrown in to lighten the flavor.

The porter was a pleasant example of Charlie's brewing talent. Keeping true to style, this beer had lots of mutton, crystal and chocolate malts along with a nice helping of East Kent Goldings and Magnum hops.

After sharing his insights into micro-brewing (and skillfully turning away club intruders), Charlie was ready to sample some local homebrew. Of special interest this evening was David Maide's one and one-half week old hefe weizen that showed great potential. Even though it was young, it had a nice banana nose and slight tartness. This will be a real winner in the hotter months.

Had I left when intended, I would have missed Bill Coleman's incredible Gueuze. I love this stuff! It was intensely sour, but with a nice sweetness underneath. Finally, I couldn't leave without sampling Warren Becker's 1995 Triple. While one critic noted that it didn't offer enough "bubble gum," I thought it was darn tasty. And with that, I went home, looking forward to the day when

I'll be drinking fine Belgian Ale right there in Belgium. Eric and I won't make it to next month's meeting, but we'll think of you all that first night in Brussels as we sit in some seedy cafe guzzling Gueuze.

This Month's Meeting: Our Guest is Greg Zaccardi the Ramstein Brewery of New Jersey, the only American Microbrewery specializing in Hefeweizen. As usual, it is at Mug's Ale House, 125 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, on Wednesday, May 14, 7:30 PM. See you there!

Note to readers: The Malted Barley Appreciation Society has joined the World Wide Web. Check out our page, courtesy of the New York Beer Guide, at: Malted Barley Appreciation Society.

We also have a new home page, under construction, by your editor, at: Malted Barley Appreciation Society Home Page.

Lastly, we have an E-Mail address. Any E-Mail can be sent to the editor at:
my E-Mail address. Keep those E-Mails coming in!

Of Bocks and Eisbocks

by Jim Simpson

I decided to make another Maibock this year after my huge success last year. Last years batch scored an average of 42 at the NYC Homebrewer's Guild competition(not bad for my first attempt). So I figured I'll just follow the same recipe and try to duplicate the results. I realized this wasn't going to be easy. The Hallertau Hersbrucker plugs I used were not in stock. So I fiddled around with the recipe making it slightly more bitter. The malt bill was very similar to the first and I was able to find the same yeast strain. I was also making twice as much so I used a second strain to see what difference it would make.

I started out at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. I had my work cut out for me. Doing a double decoction is no problem when your doing 6 gallons, but when it's 12 gallons it is called work! I got finished boiling my second decoction and while mixing it back into the main mash I wanted to know what the temperature was. Watching my lab thermometer and mixing with a wooden paddle, I was horrified when I heard a snap under the grain! Yes, mercury Bock didn't sound to appealing. Suffice it to say that my brewing day was cut short. It did teach me some lessons. Never use a mercury thermometer and don't be so damn stupid to mix with any glass object in the mash tun!

Even though I was extremely upset I recovered and made the batch the next week. Same double decoction this time no mercury! The yeast was very happy I waited. I had a full 6 ounces of slurry for each fermenter. The yeast took only 2 weeks at 42 degrees in the primary. Another 3 weeks at 42 to 32 degrees to be ready to keg. While I was waiting I got a brilliant idea. I decided to freeze 2 gallons and make an Eis-Maibock. If your thinking of doing this at home I suggest using a 2.8 gallon glass carboy. This will fit in most refrigerator freezers. It gives you the luxury of seeing the ice crystals form before it freezes solid. I froze the beer three times each time leaving behind the ice. I also added more beer to increase the volume. You can judge how I did at this month's meeting.

I'll be bringing all the Bocks I made and I hope to see some of yours!

Sidbock (named after my late cat) Maibock. (all grain makes 12 gallons)


This is the partial mash ingredients for five gallons:


Lager yeast grown to 6 oz. for 6 gallons

Big Apple Competition Results

Well, Malted Barley Appreciation Society members did very well at the homebrew competition we co-sponsored with the NYC Homebrewers Guild on April 12, 1997. This year they had a total of 161 entries - making it by far the largest in the NYC Homebrewer's Guild history. The Malted Barley members swept 4 out of 6 Belgian ribbons (must've been the practice with our Belgian Contest last year), and quite a number of other ribbons as well.

The winners are:

Light Lager/Ale/Wheat:

British Scottish Ale/IPA:


Brown Ale:

Strong Ales:


Pale Ales:


German Amber Lager/European Dark:


Strong Belgium/French:

Other Belgium:


Classic American Pilsner: This Sure Ain't Bud!

by George De Piro

Many homebrewers cringe at the thought of commercial American lagers. The monotony of these beers is what drove many of us to homebrew in the first place!   Why would anybody want to brew an American lager at home? How could a quality beer possibly be made with corn? What of the Reinheitsgebot?

I used to ask these same questions, until I tasted a pre-prohibition Pilsner made by Peter Garofalo, a member of the Salt City Brew Club, in Syracuse, NY. One sip showed me that Classic American Pilsner is NOT a boring, tasteless beer! His brew was wonderful; big hop nose and flavors, with plenty of bitterness to compliment the sweet malt and corn flavors. I decided then to abandon the Reinheitsgebot (temporarily) and brew one myself.

This is the style of Pilsner that was brewed in America before prohibition.  While it is impossible for us to have first-hand knowledge of this style (I doubt any of you were around when this style was in its prime), we can recreate it by examining the materials and methods used to brew it.

The most abundant ingredient in a classic American Pilsner, after water, is malt.  Back in the 19th century, 6-row malt was the most commonly used in American brewing. While brewers appreciate 6-row malt for its high diastatic power and large proportion of husk, they also don't like it because of its high protein content and large proportion of husk! This apparent contradiction arises because while husks provide the filter through which the wort is clarified, too much of it can add astringency to the beer. The high protein content of 6-row can make the final product hazy and unstable.

To counter these problems, American brewers (many of whom were German immigrants) diluted the 6-row malt with corn. This had the pleasant side effect of giving the beer a mildly sweet corn flavor. It was not until later that corn and rice were used in larger quantities to lighten flavor and increase profits. It is probably appropriate to use corn at a rate of up to 20% of the grain bill, the remainder being 6-row Pilsner malt. Starting gravities may have ranged from 1.048 up to 1.070, but it was probably most commonly brewed in the lower end of this range.

German immigrants also brought with them lager yeasts. These yeasts produced much cleaner tasting beers than the traditional ale yeasts. Many people found that they liked the new beers more than the older ales, and their popularity soared.

Hop rates in classic American Pilsners were probably much higher than today's mass-marketed frauds, especially here in the New York area (where consumers preferred hoppy beers). Cluster hops were commonly used in this country in the last century, and it is not unreasonable to think that they were used in American Pilsners. Hop rates were probably in the range of 30-50 IBU's before prohibition.

Hop flavor was likely in the medium to high range, and hop aroma would also have been quite noticeable. The brewers, with their Germanic heritage, may very well have favored using Saaz, Hallertau or other noble hops for flavor and aroma. As you can see, this was not a boring beer!

This style is now recognized by the AHA and BJCP. It should have a straw to deep gold color (3 to 6 SRM). Hop aroma, flavor, and bitterness should be medium to high, and the corn should be perceived but not be overwhelming.  

There should be a grainy maltiness of palate, and the body should be medium. Unfortunately, I don't have a "tried and tested" recipe. My first batch is still in the lager tank, but I'll be bringing it to the next club meeting so I'll offer the recipe here. I can't think of a way to make this beer out of extract; the corn MUST be mashed to convert its starch into sugar. A partial mash could be done, by using equal amounts of 6-row and flaked maize. The lightest malt extract you can find should make up the rest of the malt bill.

Of note, this beer is a tad dark for the style, so next time I'll leave the Munich malt out.

"American Dream,"

Pre-Prohibition Pilsner

Recipe Volume: 14.6 gallons (a nice round number)

Grain Bill:



My mash schedule contains an optional decoction (I couldn't help myself). A step infusion would work, too, and would help produce a lighter colored beer. Mash-in the Munich malt and flaked maize into 2.5 gallons of water at ~165 F.   The temperature will settle at ~155 F. Rest for 30 minutes, then bring the entire mash to a boil. Boil for 10-15 minutes. While the maize-malt mixture is boiling, mash-in the 6-row into 5.5 gallons of water at ~125 F. You will then add in the corn-malt mix, bringing the temperature to ~135 F. Rest here for 20 minutes, then raise the temperature to 155 F, and rest until conversion is complete. Lauter as usual, then boil for 90 minutes, adding the hops as directed above. Cool rapidly to ~55 F and pitch the yeast. Removing the cold break is an option you may want to consider. Ferment at 45 -50 F for 2 weeks, then lager at as close to 32 F as you can get until the sulfur smells dissipate. Package and drink! If you bottle condition, you may want to add fresh yeast to ensure rapid carbonation.

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